Asymmetric Threat: Definition & Characteristics

Instructor: David Gloag

David has over 40 years of industry experience in software development and information technology and a bachelor of computer science

In this lesson, we will define threat and discuss asymmetric threats and their characteristics. At the end, you should have a good understanding of these important concepts.

Preparing for the Worst

We live in a world where there are those that would do us harm. They are out there, sometimes lurking in the shadows. Some would threaten us for the money in our wallet, others would deprive us of the vehicle in our driveway, and still others would accost us just for walking on their street. Threats, unfortunately, are not uncommon. And they are becoming more significant with the prevalence of threats on the Internet. We need to be prepared. But how do we do that? How do we protect ourselves online? There's no simple answer. One way we might start is by paying attention to potential threats.

What is a Threat?

A threat is a statement of intent. It conveys a commitment to impart a malicious, wicked, or harmful act. Alternately, it could simply be a warning or sign that something may happen. If you think about it, we experience threats quite frequently. For example, there is the threat of getting hit by a car as we cross the street. Now admittedly, a threat isn't a guarantee that something bad will happen, like getting hit by a car. The possibility is there, but other things have to fall into place for it to actually occur. This is the case with most threats.

What is an Asymmetric Threat?

An Asymmetric Threat is one that occurs in an obscure or unusual fashion. Typically, it comes from a source that is significantly weaker, in most aspects, than its target. The threat is meant to equalize or compensate for the difference. For example, consider the classic tale of David and Goliath. In this tale, you have two opposing forces, represented by David (the weaker) and Goliath (the stronger). Unequal in size or strength, David resorts an unorthodox tactic to slay Goliath. He uses a sling, throws a rock at Goliath's head, and knocks him to the ground, killing him.

Characteristics of an Asymmetric Threat

The unorthodox approach that asymmetric threats represent precludes the determination of specific attributes that apply to of these types of threats. However, there are a few general characteristics that are worth mentioning:

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